Perhaps it is just false bravado that will come out in the wash. And possibly it is just a surge of adrenaline that will fade over the next ten days. But one thing now seems apparent …. Rather than retreating in the face of adversity, the Boston Red Sox have decided to dig in and hold the line.
It is almost as if the Sox are now an indignant bunch that welcomes the challenge of playing several men down. No Pedroia? So what, we got Bill Hall. No Victor Martinez? So what, we have Jason Varitek. How can the Sox replace that production? Easy, timely hitting and great pitching. The message from the playes, the manager and the front office is clear ….. there will be no grousing and these injuries will not be used by the team as an excuse (DO YOU HEAR THAT BRIAN CAHSMAN). Instead, it is almost as if the casualties are serving to unite this crew. Granted, you can’t put too much stock in locker room talk and the thing that matters is Ws, but one thing is already apparent and that is this club is not wallowing in pity. (Check back after they lose 3 of 4 and score four runs in the process.)
And last night was exactly what the doctor ordered. John Lackey pitched his best game since early May, Papi drilled a mistake into the seats, Adrian Beltre surged toward the lead of the batting chase and two reservists drove in four runs. All in all, it was a great way to start off a very important eleven game stretch.
Perhaps the most encouraging performance of the night belonged to Lackey who has been a bit better of late but still not really up to snuff. Well last night, he was just fine, limiting the Rays to just a run over seven economical innings. He is still giving up way too many hits but his walks have come down in his last four starts (4BB/27IP) and he is managing to keep the ball in the yard. If these trends continue, Lackey could get on a nice roll and play a central role in getting this team over this bump in the road.
While Lackey is trending up, Adrian Beltre continues to make new highs almost daily. With four more hits last night, Beltre is now hitting .349 and slugging a robust .561. His numbers in June are even better and he continues to crush the ball with runners in scoring position. If the Sox get three-quarters of this guy’s first-half production during the back-half of the season, they will be thrilled.
What isn’t thrilling is the performance of the bullpen which leaked again last night. Hideki Okijima got knocked around AGAIN and he seems to be completely busted at this point. And on a night when it looked like the Sox could get by with some easy mop-up duty, both Bard and Papelbon had to get up and get outs. The underbelly of the Sox pen remains a huge problem and remember, we are just five days removed from Papelbon hitting career lows. Finding help won’t be easy but the Sox need to make a move in this area soon. Real Soon. I know it sounds crazy, but one thought here …. KC’s trashy Kyle Farnsworth. He’d be cheap and he has been throwing pretty well.
* John Lackey does not field his position well.
* Daniel Nava is coming in hard but I don’t see any need to give him the hook. Sure, I’d give him a blow against a lefty but I remain convinced he should be in the lineup regularly.
* Jed Lowrie is actually headed to Lowell to begin playing in games on Saturday. When he finally steps on the field, he will have set a new record for the longest amount of time anyone has ever been sidelined by mono. FOUR MONTHS FOR MONO?
* The injury update on Jacoby Ellsbury was not encouraging yesterday. Seems he is still stuck out in Arizona, meaning his return is still nowhere in sight. Here is the question I have on Ells and I don’t yet have an answer. By missing all this time, has his MLB service-meter been ticking? In other words, by missing what now looks like four months, will Ellsbury even be eligible for arbitration this off-season? Or will he have not accumulated enough time to merit a big pay increase? The rule of thumb is you have to play three years to be arbitration eligible. Well, Ellsbury is now looking at two years, an August and two Septembers.